Summary and Analysis Chapter 31



In 1995, the elderly woman is about to board a plane when her son, Julien, appears. He has gotten her phone message and thinks it is unacceptable for her to travel to Paris alone as old and sick as she is. Instead of trying to stop her, he decides to travel with her. Once they are seated on the plane, he asks her to explain why she is going to Paris; she says that she will later.


While she is waiting for her flight, the elderly woman (later revealed to be Vianne) tells a fellow passenger that she is running away. Then she reconsiders: “Or maybe I’m finally going home after years of running away.” Vianne’s struggle to reconcile her past memories with her current life creates tension in this chapter. She has spent years trying to bury the painful events of the war and create a new life. She has done this so successfully that the thought of forsaking her American self to return to Paris feels like a kind of rebellion. And yet, once she revisits her old memories, she realizes that her life in America has been an extended attempt to flee from her origins in France.

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